A criminal charge of theft has been laid against National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) “student millionaire” Sibongile Mani, 27.
The case was opened yesterday at the Berlin police station outside East London, said Eastern Cape provincial police spokeswoman Brigadier Marinda Mills.
She said the case followed an official complaint laid by officials from IntelliMali at the Berlin station.
IntelliMali, the company responsible for disbursing and administering state loans and funds to students, overpaid Mani’s student voucher card by R14.1-million, instead of her allowance of R1400.
Mani, 27, is a second-year accountancy student at Walter Sisulu University’s Potsdam campus close to Berlin.
“The SAPS is investigating a case of theft in connection with the alleged NSFAS overpayment to a student of the Walter Sisulu University in Berlin near East London in the Eastern Cape,” Mills said.
“The case has been assigned to a seasoned investigator and the standard investigative procedures will now be followed.”
Mani, who is also the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (Pasma) secretary at Buffalo City Campus (BCC), was exposed on August 29 by Pasma’s rivals, South African Students’ Congress (Sasco).
Sasco BCC chairman Zolile Zamisa said last week they were shocked and disappointed at Mani for blowing the money on luxuries, and not doing the right thing, especially as a student leader, and reporting the error.
But last night Sasco did a U-turn and responded to the news of the charge being laid by joining ranks with Pasma.
Sasco’s WSU Buffalo City campus branch secretary Lonwabo Sbonde reacted: “We are not happy. This is not something we can celebrate.
“Yes Sibongile was reckless and spent money that was not meant for her but we are now putting aside our political differences to unite behind her.
“ We serve the rights of students regardless of their political affiliation.”
Sbonde called for cases of fraud to be opened against IntelliMali for wrongfully transferring the money to her.
The response from Pasma last night was militant.
“It [the charging of Mani] has been long overdue. They have been dilly-dallying playing with our emotions for too long! Now we say let us meet in the court of law where truth will prevail!” vented Pasma spokesman and “Outsourcing Must Fall” leader Vusi Mahlangu.
He said Pasma only learned through the media about the case. “As far as we are concerned, nothing official has been communicated to Mani from the police.”
Mani did not take calls from the Dispatch last night. There were also no responses from WSU and IntelliMali. Cellphones were not answered.
Mani blew more than R818000 of her NSFAS windfall on parties, cakes, R1400 bottles of whisky, designer clothing, air tickets, iPhone 7 cellphones for herself and her friends, and a R3000 16-inch Peruvian weave – all in 73 days.
On Monday, Mani fled a press conference on campus while being shielded by her Pasma comrades. She was heckled by angry students and left campus under police escort.
From the outset of her press briefing students shouted for her to: “Pay back the money!”
Her R14.1-million was part of R25-million earmarked to support 18000 WSU students.
Students have accused Mani of being selfish. She spent the money as fast as she could, at an average of R11000 a day.
At the media briefing, Mahlangu blamed WSU for compromising Mani’s safety, but WSU spokeswoman Yonela Tukwayo emphatically denied this, saying: “There is not a single instant in all the interviews with the media where I have mentioned the student by name, so we can’t be accused of compromising her safety.”
Tukwayo said Mani was outed by fellow students on social media when they posted a till slip with personal details.
“Even amid that storm when her name started trending on social media, we never confirmed her identity to anyone.”
Pasma went on to rail against the “chaotic” and “corrupt” “loan shark” NSFAS, and lambasted IntelliMali and WSU.
During Monday’s tense press briefing, Pasma leaders said: “She [Mani] did not put the money in her account.”
The hecklers disagreed, shouting from the back: “But she [stole] it!”
Pasma’s Buffalo City campus chairman Vuyo Langeni said: “This [saga] further confirms our long-held position that NSFAS has long ago reached its sell-by date and must be abandoned for free socialist education for all.
“We all witnessed yearly reports of maladministration, fraud and ineffectiveness at NSFAS.”
Pasma called upon the forensic investigative team to investigate both NSFAS and IntelliMali.
Langeni said the investigators should cast their net wide and seek to catch all corrupt service providers in all state universities across the country. — firstname.lastname@example.org